Enviornment Prelims cum Mains

SC asks petitioners to clarify stand on ‘green crackers’

The News

  • The Supreme Court has directed the petitioners to clarify their stand on green cracker formulations.
  • The petitioners have objected to the presence of barium salts in ‘green cracker’ formulation arrived at by CSIR scientists.


Timeline of the issue

  • 2015
  • A petition was filed in the SC seeking complete ban on sale of firecrackers.
  • In response the Supreme Court has taken various steps to fight the menace of air pollution during Diwali.
  • 2017
    • Ban on use of antimony, lithium, mercury, arsenic and lead in the manufacture of firecrackers.
    • Ban was extended to Barium salts in October 2018.
  • 2018
    • Instead of a blanket ban, the SC in its order allowed the manufacture and sale of only “green crackers”.
    • However, the definition of green crackers was not arrived at and hence the Court directed the government to clarify the same.
  • December 2018
    • Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organization (PESO) is entrusted under the Explosives Act, 1884, and the Inflammable Substances Act, 1952 to approve formulations of green crackers.
    • Meanwhile, scientists from CSIR have worked out a formulation for green crackers pending approval from PESO.
  • 2019
    • The petitioners have opposed the formulation by CSRI due to presence of barium salts.
    • The apex court has directed the petitioners to clarify their stand on the definition of green crackers.


In Focus: Green Crackers

Debate over definition 

  • Ever since the Supreme Court Order on green crackers, the definition of green crackers is a point of debate.
  • Court’s definition
    • According to apex court, green crackers are crackers with low emission and low noise levels, in broad terms.
  • Government’s definition
    • The government has defined green crackers as crackers with low emission sound and light emitting functional crackers with PM reduction by 30-35% and significant reduction in NOx and SO2.
  • CSIR formulation
    • Accordingly, CSIR formulated green crackers with substantially reduced emission levels and increased ability to absorb dust.
    • The CSIR formulation produces water molecules which suppress dust and reduce particulate matter pollution.
    • Lower aluminum content is expected to reduce emissions.
  • However, all these formulations are pending approvals of the PESO


Concern over CSIR formulation 

  • The petitioners have objected the use of nitrates of barium and potassium in the green cracker formulation.
  • They say it is in violation to the Supreme Court order of October 2018 that had banned the use of nitrates of barium and potassium.


Problem with nitrates of Barium and Pottassium

  • Barium nitrate is used in light emitting crackers.
    • It is poisonous if injested.
    • Exposure to barium nitrate fumes will cause irritation in the respiratory tract.
  • Potassium nitrate is usually used for sound-making crackers.
    • They produce toxic dust increasing PM pollution.
    • It is also known to produce sulphur compounds.


Chemicals in Firecrackers: Uses and Harmful effects (see figure below)

  • Aluminium, sulphur and potassium nitrate are primarily used in noise-making crackers.
  • Barium nitrate and strontium nitrate are used for light emitting crackers.
  • Antimony used for producing safety matches is a carcinogen.
  • Mercury is used as a trigger for explosives.
  • Arsenic otherwise non combustible is highly explosive when mixed with other oxidizing agents.



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